The Ferndale Police Department has begun a rollout of its new body cameras, with two officers per platoon being outfitted to start, and more to be added in subsequent weeks.

The Ferndale Police Department has begun a rollout of its new body cameras, with two officers per platoon being outfitted to start, and more to be added in subsequent weeks.

File photo provided by WatchGuard Video

Ferndale begins rollout of body cameras

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published January 24, 2018

FERNDALE — Back in October, the Ferndale City Council approved more than $120,000 worth of body cameras, in-car video system upgrades and a brand-new server for the Police Department.

The department now has begun its rollout of the body cameras, with two officers per platoon having been outfitted with the equipment on Jan. 15.

Right now, Sgt. Baron Brown said, the department will be adding two more officers periodically until the entire on-duty staff is wearing a camera in a couple of months.

Brown noted that the operation of the cameras has tested well, and the department is pretty confident in how the cameras are going to work.

“We’re trying to see what our storage use is going to be, how much time the clerks are going to be on redacting video for court and for (Freedom of Information Act) requests, and then just getting our officers used to the muscle memory of making sure that they turn them on and that they turn them off appropriately, and dealing with all those little issues that are going to come up along the way,” he said.

According to Brown, the funds for the $120,000 worth of equipment came from drug forfeitures, so it didn’t cost Ferndale taxpayers a dime to purchase them.

As for how the officers have taken to wearing the cameras, he said it’s been going well and that the younger officers have taken it more in stride.

“Of course, more seasoned officers are going to be a little … uncomfortable at first, but they all seem to be supportive and understand that it is part of the world in which we live,” Brown said. “The reality is we live in a world where people don’t always believe the police anymore. They don’t believe what we say. So this is going to be a great tool to be able to disprove that. We’re, on average, a very honest group of people, and the cameras are going to prove that statement.”

Robert Shelide, president of the Southeast Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, echoed Brown’s statement and said the body cameras add protection to the officers. Shelide is the Shelby Township police chief.

He added that when officers first got cameras in police vehicles, it did a lot to eliminate false complaints.

“Since people realized we had real video evidence of what happened, I don’t know how many times I’ve gotten phone calls from people who want to make a complaint about our officers, but they find out we have video in the cars, and all of a sudden they want to retract their complaint,” he said. “This is going to be much broader, because now the officers are going to have the cameras on them at all times. So all those interactions with people wanting to make complaints, we’ll be able to independently gauge and decide in the administration if the officers acted within reason and followed the law and department guidelines.”

Shelide said that in his experience, the cameras are great protection for the officers and a sign of where the entire profession is going. 

“In five years, this is very slowly going to adapt,” he said. “I mean, it’s going on now around the country. More and more departments are getting involved, and in about five years, you’re probably going to have more than half the departments in the country involved in body cameras.”